Each of Argentina’s provinces has their unique variation of gaucho folk music and they vary in style across the country. Folklore is an umbrella term for all gaucho folk music, it is hugely popular in Argentina and Las Peñas Folkloricas are when anyone gets together to play and dance folklore. Las Peñas come in all forms from a group of friends meeting at someone’s house, to big fiestas with dancing and singing competitions, to tourist shows – and often most enjoyable – a band in a bar. They are great fun, alcohol fueled evenings where the musicians drink as much the audience – or possibly more as it is traditional for members of the audience to offer them a sip of their drink.
In Salta, a province in the northwest particularly famous for its gaucho folk music Peñas, it is completely normal for people to go out with their instruments, meet up and play and sing and dance actually in a bar. A neat solution to people complaining about the music in a bar – just bring your own!
Of course like all country and folk music folklore has its sorrowful side and occasionally a Peña can take a turn for the melancholic. I once went to one in the central hills of Cordoba province where the singer and about half of the audience were from the northeastern province of Corrientes. Towards the end of the evening a slow Chamamé, the gaucho folk music of Corrientes, was played and I looked round to see every Corrintino had tears in their eyes.